South Louisiana cooking a big influence on Tupelo man

By Ginna Parsons/NEMS Daily Journal

When Nat Grubbs says he comes from a long line of good cooks, he’s not kidding.
Grubbs, 35, is the third generation of his family to be featured as a Cook of the Week in the Daily Journal. His grandmother, Bama Strawn, shared her story and recipes in 2003, and his mother, Reta Doughty, was featured in 2007.
“I really cook too much when I cook,” he said. “It’s really a big joke now. We have to find something to do with all the food. I’ll start cooking a big pot of gumbo and then I’ll put some ribs on the grill and maybe a pork tenderloin. My wife, Betsy, says my cooking is crazy, but I say it’s therapy. It eases my mind.”
Grubbs was born and reared in Tupelo, but his family moved to south Louisiana when he was in fourth grade. He came back to Tupelo in eighth grade.
“That was not a whole lot of time, but that was during my formative years,” he said. “Everything I knew about cooking before that came from my grandmother and granddaddy, helping them cater. Louisiana is where a lot of the Cajun influence in my cooking came from. I just loved it down there.”
Grubbs said even though he was a young boy, he watched everything people did in the kitchen.
“We were in Broussard, just outside Lafayette, and the Cajuns there are very self-reliant,” he said. “They’ve only got so much. They use and re-use and find ways to make food good. I was so enthralled by cooking off the land. I love to eat seasonally. Long before farm-to-table became the big thing, I was doing that.”
Grubbs, a home builder and real estate broker, said his all-day cooking methods got their root in south Louisiana.
“I can remember waking up in the morning and smelling onions and celery cooking. And I was like, ‘Where’s breakfast?’ but they were already working on the ampétouffampée,” he said. “I learned you can’t rush a roux. You have to stay with it, stirring it constantly. The Cajuns used to say unless somebody dies or catches on fire, you stay with your roux.”
Grubbs is already passing on his passion for cooking to his two children, 6-year-old Gabbi and 5-year-old Brother.
“I tell Gabbi the No. 1 thing you put in your food is love,” Grubbs said. “Now, when I’m cooking, she’ll run in the kitchen with Brother right behind her and she’ll look in the pot and say, ‘Hey Daddy, did you forget the love?’ and I’ll say, ‘No, I didn’t forget the love.’”
Do you know a good cook? Send your nominations to Ginna Parsons, Cook of the Week, P.O. Box 909, Tupelo, MS 38802. Or you can fax them to (662) 842-2233 or email them to ginna.parsons@ journalinc.com.